Colombia La Cristalina Natural
FINCA LA CRISTALINA
Last year, our friend Dean sent us samples of three Colombian coffees that Elana, the principal buyer for Ally Coffee in Colombia, had flagged for us. We purchased all three samples, each being a different process from a farm named La Cristalina. We released a box of the coffees, which was well received. We struck out for Colombia to visit some friends, careful to make room to visit Luis from Cafe Quatro. After a four hour drive through the night, we arrived in Pereira to meet Luis and see his farms. Turns out, we were the first coffee roaster ever to visit the project. The history of the three Valdas farms are long, but their experience with high-end specialty coffee is short compared to how long they’ve been growing coffee. Everyone was excited to meet each other, and we set up an impromptu cupping in his yard (using hand grinders and card tables), where we cupped through his fresh crop samples as he recorded it on his phone. Luis was excited to hear feedback on his coffees, as he is pursuing alternative processing methods, as well as his own education by taking a Q-Processing class. The samples were exemplary, with dynamic sweetness and acidity that only someone with a real passion for specialty can achieve.
The three Valdes family farms—Parana, La Cristalina, and San Pablo—are highly technified properties, with admirable levels of production thanks to their combined total of 421,000 trees, 142,000 of which grow on Finca La Cristalina. Each year portions of the farm are replanted, always keeping in mind biodiversity and the environment. The ecological mill is where washed lots of coffee are depulped, and the pulp is placed in a compost treatment to be converted to organic fertilizer for the coffee trees.
Their coffee cultivation complements a system of regulated shade with tree species, including walnut, red cedar, and guava, which create habitats for many species of birds. Finca La Cristalina also plants black cedar, a tree at risk for extinction, from its own nursery in the coffee fields. The post-harvest registration system on the farm permits the full traceability of each lot. Parana is the oldest of the three farms and has been in the family for more than one hundred years, today belonging to the fourth generation. Silvio Valdes was the original owner, and upon his death, his property was left to his five children, some of whom sold their portions. But, beginning in 1960, the sold portions were re-purchased, and by 1999 the full family legacy had been recuperated.
Caldas is one of Colombia’s principal coffee-growing Departments. Along with neighboring Risaralda and Quindío, it forms part of the “coffee axis” or “coffee triangle,” indicating the important coffee activities—from research to social support programs to freeze-drying to dry milling—that take place in the area, which is, in turn, part of the Coffee Cultural Landscape, recognized by UNESCO as a World Coffee Cultural Heritage site.
Caldas’ rolling landscape is defined by slopes planted with coffee. High, chilly cities and towns sit along mountain ridges, where smallholder farms and mid-sized estates are planted with predominantly monoculture coffee, protected from the excess sun by the region’s near-constant misty cloud cover. Many programs of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation have their official seats in Caldas, including the Cenicafe research facility. Many farms in Caldas are comparatively accessible by the main road, facilitating the speed of processing and export. The Department is home to many respected universities, and coffee producers have access to many business and education resources. The city of Chinchiná is also home to one of Ally’s Colombian export partners, Compañía Cafetalera La Meseta, a family business run by the five Muñoz siblings.
Wanna know more about how we brew? Then visit our brew methods page cause "this is how we brew it" (think Montell Jordan when reading that last part).
FILTER – Stagg [X]
20g Coffee : 300g Water 200°F
~3:00 Drain Time
• 50g Bloom
• @0:30 Pour to 120g
• @1:15 Pour to 180g
• @2:00 Pour to 240g
• @2:30 Pour to 300g
~3:00 Drain Time
This year’s offering from La Cristalina is crisper in flavor and less viscous than last year’s. Think sweet blueberries, bubble gum, and sweet tea. We liked this flat-bottom dripper version of the Tetsu 4:6 Method for highlighting these flavors while giving us a little more body than a cone dripper. The grind size should be pretty coarse, but not enough to stop dripping in between the pulses above. If your coffee drains too fast, under-extracts, it tastes like tart blueberry skins and has no lasting flavor. If your coffee drains too slowly, over-extracts, it tastes like berry cough syrup and tea leaves.
ESPRESSO – Modbar EP
Brew Temp: 198°F, Line Pressure: ~3.5 bars, Max Pressure: 9 bars
Pressure Profile: 0 sec to 4 sec - line pressure, from 4 sec till done - 9 bars
20g in : ~48g out @ ~26s
We love this espresso! While this flavor profile is different, we enjoyed the same parameters as last year. Expect sweet blueberry and bubble gum notes followed by a sweet tea finish. Our favorite milk beverage with this espresso was oat; it kind of tasted like a blueberry tart. If this shot pulls too quickly, under-extracts, it tastes tart and salty. If it pulls too slowly, over-extracts, it is drying with a chalky finish.
Colombia La Cristalina Natural
This is a new Relationship Coffee that came to us through our friends Dean and Elana at Ally Coffee. We contracted this coffee after cupping it in Luis Valdas’ yard, as well as a pre-ship sample we received in Arkansas. We paid $4.96 per pound, and Ally brought them stateside. We purchased ten, 70-kilo bags and cupped this coffee at an 87.
- The Coffee Commodity purchase price was $1.26/lb when we purchased this coffee.
- The Fair Trade Coffee minimum price was $1.60/lb when we purchased this coffee.
* We as a company believe transparency is unbelievably important. However, we decided only to list what is shown here because we don’t know where to stop. Do we list the amount of coffee lost in roasting due to moisture loss? Should we list our roaster Mark's salary? The warehouse rent? The utilities? The point of listing things above is not to justify what we charge or what we profit, but to give a realistic snapshot of the industry and how Specialty Coffee can be different than other commodity industries. If you have concerns feel free to email us and I’ll write you back when I’m available.
Relationship Coffee is an initiative we, at Onyx, have purposely created to describe our sourcing and buying practices and how we document them. Certifications like Direct Trade, Fair Trade, and others have impacted the coffee communities in mostly positive ways but also in some negative ways. We find that blanket terms and applying them to a multitude of business models no longer describes what we do.
In reality, every company is different, and we wanted to step out from the mold and create a new set of standards that exceeds in every department from quality to transparency to pricing. The growers, exporters, importers, associations, cooperatives, and other entities are always a set of relationships. To be honest, many are our friends as much as they are our producers and partners. We share information, family news, meals, housing, many faiths, and argue politics. Oh, and we love it. Relationship Coffee for Onyx is the mark of an honest exchange ethos that permeates our company, and we hope it encourages the growth of specialty coffee for the future.
We visited the farm or cupping lab and listened to the producer/agronomist or head cooperative/association to ascertain better knowledge about the culture and practices.
We cupped the coffee, and it scored to our industry-high standards.
We do not buy futures or multiple harvests to ensure that what we cupped for that year is what we serve.
We do not ask for exclusivity from producers, binding their options.
We pay what the coffee is worth. This always is at least double Fair Trade minimum due to the quality we buy, and many times is three to ten times the amount.
We do not finance any coffee. Cash flow is just as important as final price. Coffee is paid in full upon delivery, and we pay a percentage up front upon contracting.
We are completely transparent from price to logistics to cupping score, to who we work with buying and shipping coffee.
We work to set premiums after a contracted price to incentivize quality and community building. This can be .10¢ - .25¢ extra per pound or community projects such as school supplies in the growing village, sports jerseys, vented chimneys for kitchen fires, etc.